Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 28th 2016 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt February 28, 2016
Last Monday, Prime Minister
Dr Keith Rowley created a
firestorm of controversy when he
told the National Consultation on
Education session in Tobago that
"parents were breeding monsters
and sending them to the teach-
That led to former minister of
education Dr Tim Gopeesingh
calling on Rowley to apologise
for the remarks. However,
National Parent Teacher Associa-
tion president Zena Ramatali told
the Express that, "I felt it was a
slip of the tongue on behalf of
the Prime Minister because he
has been so hurt and speaking
about the failure of the education
system over a long period of
time. So I guess he had an
adrenaline rush when he made
that statement. I really do not
believe that he thinks that the
children are monsters...So I really
hope that we wouldn t crucify
the Prime Minister for the state-
ment entirely." (Express, February
24, 2016, p 5).
However, Social Development
and Family Services Minister
in publicly contradicting her
Prime Minister, told Newsday
that she does not see children as
"monsters" but, "persons who
are in need of assistance."
(Newsday, February 24, 2016, p
5).All of this is really a renewed
discussion about political quar-
rels that take us back 16 years or
more when the same type of
discussion was taking place.
In 2000, there was a Private
Member s Motion brought by the
MP for Diego Martin East Colm
Imbert on the High Incidence of
Crime that was debated in the
House of Representatives. Some
of the language being used today
was aired before.
One of the then government s
spokesmen was the MP for
Tobago East and cabinet minister
Dr Morgan Job. The following
excerpts from the Hansard for
July 28, 2000, involving Dr Job
and Dr Keith Rowley, MP for
Diego Martin West, are instruc-
"Dr The Hon M Job: Novem-
ber 25, 1995 or whatever it is. So
anybody who came into Trinidad
and Tobago by birth after that
date is less than five years old.
Am I right? So I do not under-
stand. All these monsters that
are being described in such
gruesome fashion by the Member
from Diego Martin East must
have been nurtured under the
PNM government or the NAR
government. PNM has been in
this country since 1956 and there
are grandmothers in the Beetham
and elsewhere in this country
whose average age is 25 years.
They did not deal with it. When
I wanted to talk about it so that
they could have dealt with it,
they closed down my radio pro-
gramme." (Hansard, July 28,
2000, p 744).
In the debate, Dr Rowley said
of prime minister Panday and Dr
Job as follows:
"Because I am hearing his
puppy dog talking about: he
grew up in Laventille, therefore,
he knows Laventille people are
swine and child molesters. Mr
Speaker, I grew up in poverty in
the back of this country at
Mason Hall in Tobago in a large
family and I know what it is for
public policy to impact on a
generation of people. I was the
first person in my family to go to
high school. My brothers who
are older than I am, I am sure
they were brighter than I was,
but Eric Williams came too late
for them. So, today, when these
people, in trying to construct
their election campaign, seek to
treat with education in this con-
text, I just say, Carry on. We
will meet you on the hustings. "
(Hansard, July 28, 2000, p 780).
The reality is that the issue of
the connection between the edu-
cation system and crime has
been a political football being
kicked back and forth with no
solution in sight. Dr Job has
remained consistent in his advo-
cacy of addressing illiteracy and
innumeracy and the link to
Many opposed to Job have
argued that his language is
unworthy of providing any prop-
er insight into the debate. The
Prime Minister has now used
language to describe some chil-
dren today that is more akin to
what Job has been using for
more than 20 years.
Is there now a meeting of the
minds and a closing of the gap?
Or did the Prime Minister have a
slip of the tongue as Ramatali
would have us believe? There has
been no retraction from Rowley
so one would have to assume
that Ramatali was attempting to
shield him from any possible
controversy over his remarks,
while he is not seeking anyone s
Dr Rowley is no stranger to
controversy where his remarks
are concerned. In the past, he
has apologised and he has
changed his mind if he thought
that it was necessary to do so. In
this instance, he has remained
He and Minister Cockburn
may have differing views on the
matter and they can sort that
out between them in private,
while his outlook and that of Dr
Job may have gotten closer some
16 years later.
If Job and Rowley are closer
now than before, maybe there is
hope in addressing the problems
of so-called "monster" children,
their teachers and crime.
"I ve already promised to eat
my sweaty football sock if
the JLP win," said a Jamaica
journalist on Tuesday.
On Thursday night, he was
checking out recipes. The
Jamaica Labour Party took 33 of
the 63 seats. Prime minister-
elect Andrew Holness pondered
which suit and tie to wear for
Most Jamaicans had expected
an easy win for Portia Simpson
Miller s People s National Party
government, despite the rigours
of an IMF-backed austerity pro-
Jamaican pollsters gave the
PNP a narrow lead during the
short campaign; but T&T s Derek
Ramsamooj bucked the trend,
putting the JLP 3.6 points ahead
in 13 marginal seats, 11 of which
it won on Thursday---with a
somewhat wider overall margin.
Nationally, Holness had the
narrowest of wins. The JLP took
just 50.1 per cent of the popular
vote, with 49.8 per cent for the
PNP. Last time round, the JLP
took 46.6 per cent. Worryingly,
voter turnout was down slightly.
The PNP was vulnerable to
this small swing because it held
a set of marginal seats. In 2011,
it won seven seats with less than
51 per cent of the vote, and nine
more with less than 55 per cent.
That is where the JLP made its
The PNP held firm in its
urban garrisons. Portia won her
usual 94 per cent in South
Western St Andrew.
So who is Andrew Holness?
And will he change Jamaica?
He was education minister for
four years in Bruce Golding s
government from 2007. He was
briefly prime minister when
Bruce stepped down in October
2011, losing a hastily-called elec-
tion to Portia Simpson Miller at
the close of that year.
Now 43, he is a generation
younger than the old-guard in
both parties, who cut their polit-
ical teeth in the 1970s, when
Jamaica was torn apart by ideo-
logically driven gang warfare
between PNP and JLP.
His wife, Juliet, won a former
PNP seat with a comfortable
majority; she is likely to be a key
figure in the new Cabinet.
Shades of Hazel Manning and
Janet Jagan? Maybe.
Young does not always mean
open-minded. Guyana s Bharrat
Jagdeo was just 35 when he took
office. He proved as narrowly par-
tisan as his elderly predecessors.
But some see reasons for hope.
A seasoned public servant says
that when Holness called a
meeting as education minister,
he listened, unlike most politi-
cians. Says a journalist: "He
remembers who you are. He
engages with you."
Less kindly, another on the
media circuit finds him "slimy".
You can t win them all.
Portia shunned the media. As
prime minister, she gave no press
conferences. At her best, her
energy connected direct to voters
on the stump; but her party
looked arrogant and complacent.
In the world of social media,
mass rallies of the faithful no
longer cut it. A taunt about her
"elitist" young opponents
spawned a hashtag #Articu-
Holness has a more measured
style. Like one-in-eight
Jamaicans and the governor-gen-
eral Sir Patrick Allen, he is a
devout Seventh-Day Adventist.
So don t look to him for even a
breath of reform to Jamaica s
repressive social policies.
And the economy? Jamaica
must pass a budget in March.
That s an even tighter time
frame than Keith Rowley and
Colm Imbert faced last year.
Like Colm and Keith, Holness
and his new finance minister
face pressures. In its December
review, the IMF called for "high
quality and durable measures to
lower the wage bill." With salary
increases last year, that means
The alternative would be a
"further squeeze" on current and
In his election campaign, Hol-
ness promised 250,000 new jobs.
But he didn t give a time frame
for that promise.
He promised to abolish income
tax for 75 per cent of those who
now pay it. If he does that in
this budget, it will almost cer-
tainly blow the IMF targets.
Andrew Holness is not stupid.
He won t start his second term
in office by picking a fight with
the IMF. And the IMF won t
want to break with Jamaica
unless they absolutely have to.
The IMF programme runs to
May 2017. Between now and that
date, there will be some tough
behind-scenes talking. Given skill
and will on both sides, the pro-
gramme can hold.
The next IMF test is in mid-
March. With luck, that s before
the budget. Most of the ground-
work has been done by Portia s
finance minister Peter Phillips.
After that, there s a test in mid-
June. That will be the one to
There s a little wriggle room.
Friday s US$34 oil price tells a
good story for oil importers like
Jamaica. Tourist arrivals look
fairly good. Bauxite is in trouble,
but that s nothing new.
We re likely to see some pain
in the March budget, but Hol-
ness can blame his predecessors.
But the income-tax promise is
the one to watch. Pre-election,
we were told that it s affordable
right now. But it seems ill
thought out, and full of anom-
alies. Holness could say that it
still stands---but it s not for now,
it s for the full five-year term. If
so, he too could be eating sock
BREEDING MONSTERS: AN OLD DEBATE?
WHERE WILL HOLNESS TAKE JAMAICA?
DR HAMID GHANY
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